Saturday, 23 February 2008

Car sharing: why can't we think beyond cars?

Car sharing is in the news again as various cities look to ease congestion by reducing the number of cars with only one person in them (four out of every five, according the the BBC report).

The BBC's article includes someone from the AA trotting out the most common objection to car-sharing, which is that it obliges people -- who often won't not know each other well -- to adjust their working patterns so they start and end work at the same time. With the sorts of jobs so many people do, this isn't possible. Therefore, people conclude, car sharing cannot work.

What a staggering lack of imagination! Why on earth don't people see that there are any number of solutions that just don't involve a car at all? It's pretty odd, when you think about it, that people spend so much time travelling alone in vehicles designed to carry five, and which fill up the road just as much to carry one person as their full complement. You wouldn't book five seats in a cinema if you were going there alone. So why don't people consider single-occupant vehicles, such as scooters and motorcycles, more often? Again, it has to be that the car is so amazingly dominant in our collective psyche that their use is totally habitual and alternatives, despite their being plentiful, much cheaper and logically more appropriate, simply never occur to people. So everybody carries on using completely, wildly, infuriatingly inappropriate vehicles to get around and our cities get less and less pleasant and accessible.

Or is it, to build on a conversation I had last night, something to do with labeling? Perhaps most people do not consider a motorcycle, for example, because they simply cannot conceive of the label 'motorcyclist' applying to them? Answers on a postcard, please.


Anonymous said...

The perception of "motorcyclists" in society has changed immensely recently in the urban context - London especially - through the adoption of scooters as a style item and a way to beat congestion/charging. I will ride a motorcycle to business meetings only when I know the person well enough -and they are often bikers themselves.

The same is true to certain extent with the tag "car sharer" - if it’s through a formal scheme, say it is perceived as either worthy, cheap or less than cool, but if - as happens where I work - for 4 lads come in to work together in one car to save their beer money its OK. Maybe we need to work on both the behavioural and marketing side of this…

Anonymous said...

For every passing motorcyclist there is a trail of smelly air pollution which wouldn't be legal coming out of a car exhaust.

If every car driver took up motorcycling the air pollution and road danger would be unpleasant for us cyclists.

Ian Walker said...

It's true that motorcycles are surprisingly not great in terms of pollution. I have a motorbike and it produces similar emissions to some cars. However, on balance it's usually still better to use a motorcycle than a car: the motorcycle doesn't create traffic jams and spends considerably less time stuck in jams spewing out fumes.

Of course, it would be better if people used no engines at all, but motorcycles are definitely the lesser of two evils: next time you see a traffic jam, caused by cars which ridiculously take up the same amount of road to transport one person as seven, and which grind to a halt so readily, imagine how much better it could be.

Unknown said...

i think a lot of people see motorbikes as dangerous. when you think of the high speeds that they can reach, how vulnerable the riders are, and how people in cars drive, it's a hard point to argue against.

for cyclists motorbikes and scooters can be a real pain too, weaving in and out between other vehicles with the grace of a donkey and often blocking up cycle lanes.

i think cars would have to be forced off city streets first before people would feel comfortable taking to the motorbike on mass.

there seems little reason to allow private cars into city centres at all unless they are being driven by/for old people or people with disabilities.

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